Summary: Set in Pegasus B; slightly AU Jack and Daniel meet in Atlantis.
The lights came up automatically when someone tried to activate the door. Daniel wished there was a way to shut that off.
He stumbled to the door of his room, unfolding his glasses, ignoring his hair, and checking to see that he had pants on before he opened the door. Oops, he didn't. He grabbed a pair, work pants, the heavy fabric that was supposed to last for all the years they might be stuck out here; he put them on.
"Hang on, hang on!" he called toward the door as he saved himself from falling over as his toe caught on the crotch of the pants.
"Yeah, what is it?" Daniel said as he unlocked the door.
Jack stood on the other side.
They looked at each other for a moment.
Daniel's face asked all kinds of questions but Jack's gave away no answers.
"Jack. Uh. Do you want to come in?" Daniel finally asked, stepping away from the door.
"I guess I'd better." Jack sounded as though it were a dentist's visit.
Daniel stepped back, activated the door again, and then he and Jack were standing, in his room, at about one a.m. Atlantis time.
It was a pretty long silence before Daniel said, "Uh, I have no idea what to do."
Jack just looked at him.
"I mean... do you want to sit? Shall we sit?"
Daniel crossed his arms over his bare chest. "Okay. We'll stand then."
Linguistics Daniel had learned at Harvard but negotations he had learned from Dr. Elizabeth Weir. He stayed quiet. Jack would have to say whatever he wanted to say. Daniel wasn't going to pull it out of him.
He shifted his weight.
Jack watched him.
"All I wanted to say," Jack suddenly said in a rush, "was that, uh..." That was as far as he got.
Daniel raised his eyebrows, prompting him to go on.
"I wanted to say that - I heard you. I think you're crazy, wanting to have ANY kind of relationship with me, much less a... physical one."
Daniel stayed quiet; Jack looked for words.
"I just thought you ought to know that it isn't because of you that I can't do it."
"Nice, Jack.'It isn't you, it's me.'"
"Don't be a smartass, Daniel. Just because it's a cliche doesn't make it any less true."
"But it's not true."
"Yes, it -"
But before Jack even finished Daniel took a step towards him.
The temperature in the room went up noticeably. Jack's cheeks flushed and Daniel licked his lips.
Just from one step.
"Sure, Jack. Tell me again that you're too straight, that you can't even think of having sex with any man, not even me."
"I don't wanna hurt you."
"It already does."
"That I can't be gay for you?"
"That you won't make love with me. You don't even care enough to try." Even though it was Daniel saying it, it was Daniel who blushed, dropped his eyes for a second. But they came back up, blue and clear and determined.
So Jack just said it.
"Daniel, I care about you so much that if it came to a choice between this base and everyone in it and you, I'd choose you in a heartbeat."
Daniel's mouth dropped open. Jack's eyes dropped to his lower lip. But only for a second.
"That's not really good," said Daniel.
"I don't think so either," Jack said evenly.
"But doesn't that mean that you're already --" The crinkly frown that Jack had learned to know so well peaked between Daniel's eyebrows like a distant mountaintop.
"I don't know what it means. Except that I'm unfit for duty, and don't have the guts to take myself off it."
"I'm sorry, Jack."
"I just wanted you to know ... why I can't."
"That's why you can't?"
"That's plenty of reason enough."
Daniel cocked his head a little. Jack was standing, balanced on the balls of his feet, hands in his pockets. He had his billed cap on, the one he wore on missions, and his vest that smelled of explosives smoke. Daniel suddenly wondered where Jack had been, what he'd been doing, before he decided to show up here.
But not as much as he wondered about the other reasons.
"I'd like to know if there's another reason," he said softly.
Jack's eyes flicked back and forth between Daniel and the door. "I gotta go..." he said, as if he were hypnotized. But he didn't move to go.
"Okay, go," Daniel said even more softly.
"I can't be one of the crowd."
Startled, Daniel didn't even stop to consider. "That's not fair."
"Hey, that's the way it is. I don't pretend to understand what you've got going on with your ex and his lover and WHAT-ever. You do what you want. I just can't do that for me."
"What, making love with you means we're married, forever and ever till death do us part, forsaking all others?"
Jack blew an exasperated gust of air. "I don't think the world is QUITE that black and white, and you know it. I just can't be... one of a group. Not in the group, or out of it."
Daniel knew what he meant. "Did I ever... ignore you?"
"It's not about the attention. It's just about... hell, it's about me. I can't share and I don't want to."
Daniel felt his own sharp intake of breath. He wondered if Jack heard it. His ears were thumping with the sound of that 'I don't want to.' "Okay."
"Okay?" Jack sounded a little wary. "What okay?"
"Okay. You won't have to share. I can do that."
"That's not what I --"
"That's exactly what you meant." Daniel's eyes looked straight into Jack's. "I don't want to share either."
Jack could feel something inside his chest breaking, moving, like icebergs crashing into one another. Unexpected, everything Daniel gave him was unexpected. "Daniel. Stop trying to make this easy."
"Was there anything else?"
Jack's breathing was speeding up, he could do nothing to stop it, despite his special ops training. Breathing fast and loud could give you away in a dangerous situation. Jack felt this was dangerous. "What if Carson's right?"
"Right about what?"
Jack's lip twitched as if he were suppressing a smile. "Do you mean there's actually something I've managed to keep private despite the gossip hive that is Atlantis?"
"I don't know. Tell me what it is and I'll tell you if I've heard it already." Daniel took another step towards Jack; Jack fought the urge to step back.
"Doc's got a theory. About me. As Wraith food."
Daniel waited. He was watching Jack's every expression, every move of his lips, every tiny motion of his hands, and heard every word as if it'd been rung by a bell. His concentration was so absolute he could have entered a trance state. He could feel that they were balancing on a knife edge, and he was afraid they were going to end up horribly hurt, but he couldn't wait to see what would happen next, couldn't stop himself from hoping they might not fall.
He waited till Jack had to finish.
Apparently it never even occurred to Jack that he could have simply walked out the door.
Reluctantly, eventually, he said it. "It's because I'm -- I'm hollow."
"But you're not."
"Whatever it is the Wraith feed on, I'm fresh out."
Crinkly brow. "But what could that--?"
"Drive. Hope. Will to - whatever. Whatever it is, I'm empty. I know I am." Jack pressed his lips together and his eyes tilted away toward the floor but he thumped himself in the chest. "There's nobody here, Daniel."
"But I can see you --" Daniel took another step, and now he was close enough to put out his hand and touch Jack, and he did. One fingertip, right between the eyes. Jack's eyes zoomed right to Daniel's face. Daniel said, "You're right here. I can see it in your eyes."
"That's because --" Jack swallowed. He should never have let Daniel get so close. He could smell him, smell the musky scent of a warm masculine body that had been sleeping till Jack had come by and dragged him out of bed; a body that could be back in the bed within moments. Daniel's body. "That's because when I'm around you, I'm back where I should be."
Daniel's teeth nibbled at his lower lip and his raised hand ghosted toward Jack's head as if to stroke his hair, but then floated away. A positive electrical charge repels another positive electrical charge, he remembered Rodney telling him. Maybe he and Jack would continue to orbit each other, both charged, never touching.
How could that possibly be?
When Jack was right here, right here...
"And that's bad because...?" Daniel's voice was so soft now that no one standing even a few feet away could have heard. But there was no one a few feet away. They were alone.
"What if that's the only weapon we have?" Jack almost whispered. "It's all that saved us once. All that saved you once. What if... what if I give that up and it turns out it was all I had to protect you with?"
"Jack," whispered Daniel back, his eyes flicking over Jack's eyebrows, the shape of his nose, the curve of his lips. "Don't you remember? It was John who saved us before. John Sheppard. You still have him. And if someday you don't, you'll have Ford. Or Stackhouse. Or Jones. Or me. Yes, me. You have them. You have us. You're not a saviour nailed to a cross, Jack."
As he spoke Daniel leaned closer. He could feel the heat waves bursting off of Jack's body, could see him practically vibrating with the tension. He wanted Jack to close the last tiny distance between them.
But Jack didn't.
And Jack's face looked like he could feel the nails going in.
And he also wasn't moving.
"That's a lot of reasons," Daniel told him, so close he was breathing in the warm air Jack breathed out. "A lot of reasons not to be standing here. So why are you still here? Why don't you go? Leave right now?"
He reached up, took Jack's cap off. Dropped it on the floor.
With a tiny tilting motion Daniel bumped his nose against Jack's nose, slid up one side and down the other, a tiny motion that was so evocative he felt himself break out into a sweat, and Jack moaned.
It was the best sound Daniel had ever heard.
"I can't, sw-- I can't," Jack rasped, and Daniel's heart soared, because THAT was the best sound he'd ever heard.
"I want you to," Daniel breathed, backing up enough to take off his glasses, toss them on the desk. They weren't talking about Jack's leaving. They were talking about Jack's staying. Daniel knew it. And then there was nothing between them, eyes to eyes, nose to nose, skin just ready to slide against skin again, and still Jack held himself motionless while Daniel waited.
"No, Daniel," and Jack made "Daniel" sound just like "sweetheart". "You don't understand."
"I can't -- oh God -- I can't be good enough for you."
There was no way. No way he could tell Daniel about how he felt when he was around Daniel, the pounding heart, dry mouth, and sweaty palms of a teenager, and how it had felt when he'd found out about that threesome. Daniel's world wasn't just different, it was, God, Jack didn't KNOW what, and Jack didn't even want to try to describe his sudden terrors of sexual inadequacy that would put a seventy-year-old virgin to shame. He didn't know how to be anything other than a mostly straight Air Force colonel for whom, many years ago, a blow job was a big night. He didn't want Daniel to find out how much he didn't know. And there was no way to keep Daniel from finding that out if they went the way he wanted them to go.
But on the other hand, there was this damned electricity, a current flowing right under his skin, making the hairs on his arms prickle. It was an ache he felt in the hollows of his elbows and he didn't know how to make it stop.
And so Jack stood there.
Daniel's heartbeat accelerated again. He was going to win. They were balanced on the knife edge and it wouldn't cut them if he could just pull Jack across. "Yes, you can," Daniel assured him.
The knife edge cut into Daniel's heart as Jack finally stepped back, a short step, but away from Daniel. He put up a hand, palm out, as if warding off an attack. "No, I can't."
No, no, no, screamed Daniel inside, and, determined to pull Jack back up onto the precipice with him, put out his own hand, deliberately laid his palm flat against Jack's. The heat was searing. His fingers he forcibly slid down between Jack's fingers, forcing the strong, long fingers apart until he could lock his own hand around Jack's, through Jack's, and he felt Jack jerk as though he'd been hit with an electrical charge.
The right charge, thought Daniel.
But Jack said, so low and hoarse it sounded as though he might cry, "Daniel, dammit, I can't. I don't know how. And if I did -- it's been so long, so very long, you can't imagine. I couldn't stand it if I..." He was staring at their hands together.
"I don't think making love to me would be that tough," Daniel breathed.
Jack tried to pull his hand free but Daniel's tightened, fingers determined and impossibly strong, and horrifyingly, unbelievably, he almost thought he saw Jack's lower lip tremble as he opened his mouth again, even as his face flushed again, the blood flowing right under the surface of the skin.
"If you make me try," Jack said, looking somehow, impossibly, as delicate as porcelain inside his combat vest, "and I lose this, and I lose you, I won't have anything."
Daniel had to think, really think. All his life he'd refused to believe there were puzzles that couldn't be solved. There must be an answer to this one, an answer Jack would believe. There had to be.
"Yes, you will. You'll have the fact that you tried. That's all you can have. That's all there is. I have faith in it. I have faith in you."
Daniel's face practically glowed with conviction. Jack wondered, if there was a God, why He would send an angel to him now. Such a dangerous, pushy angel. Dancing on the head of a nail. And Daniel wasn't letting Jack's hand go.
"Daniel." Jack's voice was so hoarse it was almost a croak. "Please don't."
He knew. He understood. He realized Jack could feel the knife edge too. But they had to get across. They couldn't stay balanced here forever. It was too dangerous to try.
He wouldn't let Jack fall.
"All right," said Jack brokenly. "All right."
And he raised his other hand to stroke it lightly across Daniel's cheek. It burned where it touched.
It was heavenly. Daniel fought to keep his eyes from closing. He had a superstitious feeling that his eyes were all that kept Jack here. He didn't want to close them and for Jack to go while they were closed. There was no reason for him to think Jack would - but he was scared of it anyway.
"What do you want?" said Jack in the same hoarse voice. "What should I do?"
"Would you just please kiss me?"
Jack's head tilted as he looked at Daniel from half an inch away. He was utterly serious, utterly given over to what he was sure was disaster. But Daniel looked confident, and a smile curved his lips, a sweet smile, a smile that said that all was right with the world as long as he was breathing in the air that Colonel Jack O'Neill breathed out.
Daniel considered telling him to stop worrying, it was just like kissing anyone else. But he couldn't say that. Because it wasn't. It would never be.
"Or would you rather I - that I kissed you instead?" he said, a little breathless from being so close to what he wanted so badly.
"No," Jack said, watching Daniel's lips, sounding a little shell-shocked. "I'll... I'll do it."
The hand that was skimming lightly over Daniel's cheek came to rest, a sudden firehot world of skin that was touching Daniel's skin, a touch that was definitely a lover's and no one else's, and Daniel felt the answering flush rise in his face.
Jack leaned the necessary tiny distance, tilting his head just a little, so that his nose and Daniel's nose slid together again, nestled intimately together, then separated as Jack's lips drifted in the lightest of touches against Daniel's.
Daniel resisted the urge to dive into Jack's mouth, into Jack's arms, into Jack's heart. This had to be both of them. And this moment, once it was gone, would never come again.
He could wait.
Jack's lips brushed over his own, across, across again. They were parted enough for Daniel to feel the heat and moisture of Jack's breath against his lips, but that was all. Jack brushed Daniel's lips lightly, very lightly, as if not quite sure that this was real, that he'd found a place to stop.
Daniel's lips parted slightly and the tip of his tongue just touched Jack's lower lip.
Took advantage of Daniel's now open mouth to taste Daniel's lower lip, very gently capturing it between his own and flicking his own tongue to touch it, to taste it.
Let it go, only to take it again, slanting his mouth across Daniel's so that their breath was forced to mingle.
Feeling a shiver starting in his gut, Daniel pulled Jack's still-captured hand closer, turned it so that he could lay the back of Jack's hand against his chest, against the heat of the bare skin there.
And Jack, giving in to his captured hand, stepping closer, felt Daniel's other hand come up to touch him just below the ear, thumb just brushing his earlobe, fingertips searing trails as they sank into his hair.
And some animal part of Jack's brain responded to the chemical signals his nervous system was receiving, and sending, and flooded Jack's system with something that released the coiled spring in him, all in a moment.
And all at once Jack's body was against Daniel's body, thighs brushing, arms winding, and Jack's mouth was slanted against Daniel's and kissing, really kissing, touching and tasting every surface it could reach, and Daniel was kissing him back, and it was impossible to tell where the slick inner surfaces of one mouth ended and the other began.
It didn't stop, it just slowed, and finally they drifted slightly apart, far enough to see that yes, they were two people, and hadn't just fused into one.
Jack's face was the embodiment of sheer vast astonishment.
Daniel couldn't remember when he'd last breathed, or walked, or talked. But he felt it was incumbent to say something. He knew he had to say something, wanted to say something, but nothing seemed right, there was nothing that wouldn't be too flip, too casual, for the shift in the physical laws in the universe that had just taken place in his room.
He wanted to say thank you. But that didn't seem appropriate. Or enough.
So Daniel just said, "You okay?"
Bewildered, Jack blinked. "Yes."
They stood there for a while, staring at each other.
Daniel led him over to the bed, one of those Atlantis beds that no one was sure of the capacity of.
Jack just sat on the edge and took off his boots. Then he dropped his vest on the floor.
Daniel pulled back the covers, made a space for Jack near the wall. Jack lay back. Daniel pulled up the covers, over Jack's socks, fatigue pants, T-shirt. Daniel made no move to take his pants off either.
He wiggled in under the blanket himself, fitting himself against Jack's side.
They muttered to each other -- "Does this -- Oh yes it does," quiet meaningless nothings, as they arranged arms and heads and shoulders in some way that would let them sleep in the same bed with one another.
It would be too hot, Daniel realized almost immediately, feeling how much of Jack's body heat the blanket trapped.
It didn't matter.
The lights dimmed in a few minutes, sensing their position, and Daniel stayed on his side, watching Jack's chest rise and fall with his breathing where Jack lay on his back next to Daniel in Daniel's bed. He gave in to the urge he'd had for so long, to stroke his hand down the wall of that fantastic chest.
Jack's breath speeded up first, but finally it slowed, and finally, counterpoint to the rhythm of Daniel's hand and Daniel's breathing and Daniel's heartbeat, Jack drifted silently into sleep.
Daniel, head balanced on Jack's arm, watched him sleep for a while before drifting off himself.
The lights brightened again when once again someone activated the door.
Jack was awake instantly but blinked in the suddenly brighter light, blinked again when he realized where he was, who was with him. His belly muscles tensed as he moved as if to get up.
Daniel raised a finger and laid it against his lips, silencing him, stilling him.
Roll, soft thup of feet on the floor and Daniel answered his door, blinking, without glasses.
The airman on the other side looked nothing if not deeply apologetic.
"I'm sorry to wake you, Doctor Jackson, I know it's four thirty in the morning, but I'm looking for Colonel O'Neill and I've looked everywhere and I wondered..." She swallowed. "I wondered if you might know where he is."
"Yes," said Daniel, blinking owlishly, volunteering nothing.
"Well, is he --" She made the leap, figuring he could tell her to fuck off if she was wrong. "Can I speak to him, please?"
"No." Blink. Lips licked.
"Sir, the officer of the watch sent me to get him, it was something to do with a disciplinary action about --"
"Is it a matter of life or death?"
That made HER blink. "No sir, I don't think you could say that, exactly, but..."
Daniel stood there. Staring at her.
She was an ambitious young woman, from a rural part of Yugoslavia. She would not even be alive to go on the Pegasus expedition if she were not tenacious in carrying out her duties. She had been sent to find the Colonel and had no intention of leaving without him. "Sir, if you could just --"
Daniel raised a finger, as if to indicate that she should wait.
Closed the door.
In just a moment the door opened again, again just wide enough to reveal Dr. Jackson's partially dressed body. And his hand. Holding his sidearm.
He didn't raise it. "No," was all he said.
She had no idea what she was going to say to the officer of the watch. Maybe it would be better if she said she hadn't found the Colonel. Yes, that would be better. For him. Maybe for her.
She went away.
Daniel closed the door, laid his weapon back down on his desk, returned to the bed, slid under the covers.
Jack was watching him with dark, amused, worried eyes.
Daniel knew he was thinking of all his objections.
Daniel worked his body back into exactly the position he'd been disturbed from, his chest against the wall of Jack's chest, one leg laying lightly against, almost over, one of Jack's legs, his head balanced on his own pillow on his own arm but laying against Jack's shoulder.
Jack watched, and worried, and worshipped.